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Ahead of today’s (24th February) Senedd debate, the Bevan Foundation, NEU Cymru and the Child Poverty Action Group have joined forces to ask members of the Senedd to support a motion on expanding eligibility for free school meals (FSM) to all children living in families receiving universal credit..

Recent research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows that, in Wales, more than half of children who live in poverty are not currently entitled to free school meals. This equates to 70,000 children in poverty who must pay to eat cooked food at school and cannot get help towards the other costs of going to school, such as uniforms, trips and learning materials.

Steffan Evans, from the think tank, the Bevan Foundation said:

“Recent research by the Bevan Foundation has shown that 15% of Welsh households have had to cut back their spending on food for adults since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. Lower income and lone parent households have been hit even harder with over 4 in 10 lone parent households cutting back on food for adults and the same being true for a quarter of households whose income is less than £20,000 a year.

“Now is the time to act.”

Ellie Harwood, from the Child Poverty Action Group in Wales, said:

“CPAG’s recent research with families of school-aged children in Wales has found 90% of households eligible for means-tested benefits report an increase in living costs while their children have been unable to attend school.

While better-off families have sometimes been able to save during lockdown, because they cannot carry out their usual spending on leisure and recreational activities, low-income families are less likely to have any recreational expenditure to cut back on. Instead, families are facing additional bills for heating, energy, data and food; costs which would usually be off-set by their children attending school.”

Mary van den Heuvel, from the National Education Union Cymru, said:

“Whilst we recognise the Welsh Government has taken some actions to support children living in poverty, at this difficult time it is clear to us that the health and wellbeing of children must be a priority. Our members say they know when someone in their class is hungry – as they can’t concentrate on their learning. With so much time away from the classroom, now is the time to support learners, as we begin to open schools more widely.

“We ask that all Members of the Senedd support the motion to expand eligibility for free school meals (FSM) to all children in receipt of universal credit, and all children in families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF).”

Note to editors:
The recent research carried out by the Child Poverty Action Group can be found at the link below
https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/briefing/expanding-eligibility-free-school-meals-wales-ehangu-cymhwystra-am

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